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The Whistling Seasonby Ivan Doig
Synopses & Reviews
"Can't cook but doesn't bite." So begins the newspaper ad offering the services of an A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition that draws the hungry attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. And so begins the unforgettable season that deposits the noncooking, nonbiting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch — a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom. When the schoolmarm runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morris is pressed into service, setting the stage for the several kinds of education — none of them of the textbook variety — Morris and Rose will bring to Oliver, his three sons, and the rambunctious students in the region's one-room schoolhouse.
A paean to a vanished way of life and the eccentric individuals and idiosyncratic institutions that made it fertile, The Whistling Season is Ivan Doig at his evocative best.
"Any writer's work should be judged solely on its own merits, yet in this fine novel by Ivan Doig, one may be forgiven for marveling at the creation of such a work at an advanced stage of this writer's illustrious career. (Wallace Stegner — to whom, as with Doig, landscape was character and event in any story, and particularly Western landscapes — comes to mind with his classic Crossing to Safety.)Like many of Doig's earlier novels, The Whistling Season is set in the past in rural eastern Montana — and addresses that time and place in distinct, uncluttered prose that carries the full enthusiasm of affection and even love — for the landscape, the characters, and the events of the story — without being sentimental or elegiac. The novel is narrated by an aging Montana state superintendent of schools, Paul Milliron, who is charged with deciding the fate of the state's last scattered rural schools, and who, in the hours preceding his meeting to determine those schools' fate, recalls the autumn of 1909, when he was 13 and attending his own one-room school in Marias Coulee.Recently widowed, Paul's father, overwhelmed by the child-rearing duties presented by his three sons, in addition to his challenging farming duties, hires a housekeeper, sight unseen, from a newspaper ad. The housekeeper, Rose, proclaims that she 'can't cook but doesn't bite.' She turns out to be a beguiling character, and she brings with her a surprise guest — her brother, the scholarly Morris, who, though one of the most bookish characters in recent times, also carries brass knuckles and — not to give away too much plot — somehow knows how to use them.The schoolteacher in Marias Coulee runs away to get married, leaving Morris to step up and take over her job. The verve and inspiration that he, an utter novice to the West, to children and to teaching children, brings to the task is told brilliantly and passionately, and is the core of the book's narrative, with its themes of all the different ways of knowing and learning, at any age.Doig's strengths in this novel are character and language — the latter manifesting itself at a level of old-fashioned high-octane grandeur not seen previously in Doig's novels, and few others': the sheer joy of word choices, phrases, sentences, situations, and character bubbling up and out, as fecund and nurturing as the dryland farmscape the story inhabits is sere and arid. The Whistling Season is a book to pass on to your favorite readers: a story of lives of active choice, lived actively. (June)" Signature Review by Rick Bass. Rick Bass is the Pushcart and O. Henry award-winning author of more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books. His second novel, The Diezmo, will be published in June. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Doig blends a coming of age story and late-life reflection to luminous effect....
"This is an affectionate, heartwarming tale that also celebrates a vanished way of life and laments its passing." Library Journal
"Doig's story centers on the impact of these unconventional siblings on simple rural lives." Kirkus Reviews
"An entrancing new chapter in the literature of the West." Booklist
[P]rovides us with a portrait of early 20th century Western life. The book isn't plot-driven, but instead offers an intimate look at a crucial year in a young boy's existence....The charm of The Whistling Season lies in the seemingly ho-hum plot. Doig's quiet, flowing prose keeps the subtle story in motion." Chicago Sun-Times
"Both elegiac and life-affirming, The Whistling Season takes the chill out of today's literary winds." Los Angeles Times
"The Whistling Season does what Doig does best: evoke the past and create a landscape and characters worth caring about....Doig's pace is leisurely, but the plot takes a surprising twist." USA Today
The Wake of Forgiveness is a novel set in Lavaca County, Texas, spanning
the years 1910-1926, when a blood feud erupts after the forbidden marriages
of a wealthy Czech landowner's sons to the daughters of a prominent Spanish
horse breeder who comes to Texas seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution.
Reminiscent of Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy, Bruce Macharts debut novel is a dark family saga set in the American Southwest.
On a moonless Texas night in 1895, an ambitious young landowner suffers the loss of “the only woman hes ever been fond of” when his wife dies during childbirth with the couples fourth son, Karel. The boy is forever haunted by thoughts of the mother he never knew, by the bloodshot blame in his fathers eyes, and permanently marked by the yoke he and his brothers are forced to wear to plow the family fields. From an early age, Karel proves so talented on horseback that his father enlists him to ride in acreage-staked horseraces against his neighbors. In the winter of 1910, Karel rides in the ultimate high-stakes race against a powerful Spanish patriarch and his alluring daughters: hanging in the balance are his fathers fortune, his brothers' futures, and his own fate.
A national bestseller, the story of “a boy’s last days of youth and a history his father can’t leave behind” (The Daily Beast).
Tom Harry has a streak of frost in his black pompadour and a venerable bar called The Medicine Lodge, the chief watering hole and last refuge in the town of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom also has a son named Rusty, an “accident between the sheets” whose mother deserted them both years ago. The pair make an odd kind of family, with the bar their true home, but they manage just fine.
Until the summer of 1960, that is, when Rusty turns twelve. Change arrives with gale force, in the person of Proxy, a taxi dancer Tom knew back when, and her beatnik daughter, Francine. Is Francine, as Proxy claims, the unsuspected legacy of her and Tom’s past? Without a doubt she is an unsettling gust of the future, upending every certainty in Rusty’s life and generating a mist of passion and pretense that seems to obscure everyone’s vision but his own. The Bartender’s Tale wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood.
About the Author
Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous books, including the novels Prairie Nocturne and Dancing at the Rascal Fair. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, Doig holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle.
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